“I really do think that it is the great tragedy of American politics that this issue divides us so profoundly, and it’s a very painful issue to talk to just about anyone with, and I think there’s kind of a surprising lack of basic human charity when people talk about this issue no matter what their position. I feel that so much of the kind of murderous rhetoric of American politics and what we decry as the decline of civility, or hyperpartisanship… these things are really troubling as a citizen to watch, right? And I do think that even when we’re not talking about abortion we are often talking about abortion. I think that so much of American politics has a kind of good and evil cast, do or die, life or death intensity, and I think a lot of that comes from the moral posturing around this issue. I think we’d do better if we could have these conversations outside of a partisan arena, where there’s far too much to gain by making these issues partisan, and you can track over the course of American history how much people have gained by staking out these partisan positions and think it’s a real tragedy.”
Amen, sister. History as refuge, as sanity. I like it. I’m for it. I think when done right, history has this effect. And upon a little reflection, I don’t consider this the opposite of how others would have it—history employed to persuade political action. I’m for that, too. What do you think?
In the book review portion of the show, Maureen Corrigan said this,
“I like plot. But Lerner’s offbeat little novel manages to convey what every day life feels like before we impose the structure of plot on our experience.”
And that right there is how history is done—imposing a structure of plot. Not really related, but it reminds me of this George Eliot quote,
"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."
Which is also not related to, but reminds me of what the North Carolina Baptists said in 1849 about literacy and Sunday Schools,
“An influence silent and unseen by the world, is thus brought to bear.”
Which reminds me of that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote for a bumper sticker,
“Well behaved women seldom make history.”
This sounds like something maybe Walt Whitman said that one time, or that Carl Becker said that other time.
Anyhow, this resonates in my work—on generally well-behaved people—because the important plot points rarely survive as “evidence.” Two people resolving a dispute peaceably does not get noticed, but a turn to violence does. When a child misbehaves, the mother is far more likely to write it down than when the child does nothing, thereby behaving.
And none of this has anything to do with what Jill Lepore said—I just had all these quotes built up that I wanted to use.